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'The biggest gang problem in Chicago is the Chicago Teachers Union...' Illinois Senator James Meeks told Operation PUSH on October 17, 2009

Less than one month after the brutal murder of Fenger HIgh School student Derrion Albert during a gang brawl on 111th St. in Chicago shocked the world, one of Chicago's most powerful political and religious leaders, Reverend Senator James Meeks, shocked a group of teachers on Saturday, October 17, when he declared from the podium at the weekly meeting of Operation PUSH that the Chicago Teachers Union was a worse gang than the city's most notorious drug gangs.

The Reverend Senator James Meeks (above left) told Operation PUSH and its national radio audience on October 17, 2009, that the "biggest gang problem in Chicago is the Chicago Teachers Union." Meeks is doubly powerful in Chicago, as an Illinois State Senator from the 15 Illinois Senatorial District and as the pastor of the largest mega-church in Chicago, Salem Baptist which worships at the huge "House of Hope" on Chicago's far South Side. Above, Meeks made peace with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (right at podium) at a press conference on May 23, 2006 in Chicago. Meeks had threatened to run for governor as an independent, which would have split the vote for the incumbent Blagojevich. Meeks charged that Blagojevich was not doing enough to change the inequitable funding structure for Illinois education. At a major media event at Chicago's Healy Elementary School on May 23, 2006, Meeks announced that he had made his peace with Blagojevich after Blagojevich promised to privatize the hugely profitable Illinois Lottery in order to provide more money for schools. Between Meeks and Blagojevich above is former Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, who is now U.S. Secretary of Education. Substance caption and photo by George N. Schmidt.According to one person who heard the show, Meeks said: "The BDs [Black Disciples] are not the biggest gang problem, the GDs [Gangster Disciples] are not the biggest gang problem, the Vice Lords are not the biggest gang problem, the Four Corner Hustlers are not the biggest gang problem... The biggest gang problem in Chicago is the Chicago Teachers Union." Others who were present during the PUSH event confirmed that he made such remarks.

When he speaks from the podium at Operation PUSH, Meeks is not just anyone who has been given the right to speak at the widely broadcast Saturday meeting. In one on-line biography, Meeks states the he is 'executive vice president' of Rainbow PUSH itself. The PUSH Web site states that he is on the Board of Directors of Rainbow PUSH.

In addition to being an Illinois State Senator, Meeks is also pastor of the largest mega-church in Chicago, Salem Baptist. Meeks's congregation meets at the sprawling House of Hope adjacent to the Bishop Ford Expressway (Interstate 94) on Chicago's far South Side.

As an Illinois State Senator, Meeks has been in the news and made headlines for several years, primarily on issues pertaining to public education. Most recently, Meeks led a highly publicized foray into Chicago's wealtheir suburbs in September 2008. On the first day of school, he took busloads of Chicago students from the inner city to wealthy Winnetka, where they visited New Trier High School and a local public elementary school. Meeks said he organized the event to dramatize the inequities in funding public education in Illinois.

One of the most powerful individuals in Illinois

In Chicago, where politically powerful preachers organize huge churches and larger congregations, the 'House of Hope' adjacent to Interstate 94 on Chicago's far South Side is the biggest. As pastor of the Salem Baptist Church, which is housed at the House of Hope, Rev. Sen. James Meeks wields enormous power in the Chicago area and across Illinois. Two miles west of Meeks's church, on 111th St., visitors can find a cluster of smaller churches at the site where Fenger High School student Derrion Albert was beaten to death on September 24, 2009, during a gang brawl. Chicago Police Department records do not show any teachers involved in the murder of young people in Chicago during the past ten years, yet on October 17, 2009, Rev. Sen. Meeks proclaimed from the pulpit of Operation PUSH that the Chicago Teachers Union was a worse gang than Chicago's most violent drug gangs. Substance caption and photo by George N. Schmidt.According to the Illinois General Assembly Web site, Meeks currently serves on the Illinois State Senate committees on Education, Commerce & Economic Development (Vice-Chairperson); Housing & Community Affairs (Chairperson); Education; Higher Education; Senate Education Funding Reform; and the Subcommittee on No Child Left Behind, NCLB (Sub-Chairperson).

As an Illinois State Senator, Meeks has offices in Springfield and in the Chicago suburb of Calumet City. [Springfield Office:, Senator 15th District, M115 Capitol Building, Springfield, IL 62706, (217) 782-8066... District Office, 2050 E. 159th Street, Calumet City, IL 60419, (708) 862-1515, (708) 862-4745 FAX]. He also has offices at the House of Hope.

Meeks has received national support and publicity from Chicago's Congressional delegation. On February 23, 2009, Chicago Congressman Danny Davis took the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to read words of praise for Meeks into the Congressional Record (Page: H1637] "Mr. Speaker," Davis reportedly said. "I rise to commend [Illinois] State Senator James Meeks, who is also pastor of the House of Hope Church in Chicago, which is the largest church in the city that holds more than 10,000 people. Well, on Saturday morning, Reverend State Senator Meeks called a community meeting to help people understand the economic stimulus package. As cold as it was, more than 2,000 people came, representatives from every walk of life, the Governor's office, all of the other municipal offices. And I simply commend him for this initiative, for giving the people of Illinois an opportunity to better understand the stimulus package..."

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (above left) had every reason to smile following his announcement that the governor would support the privatization of the Illinois Lottery as part of a plan to increase school funding in Illinois. During the six weeks prior to the above announcement on May 23, 2009, Rev. Sen. James Meeks (at podium) of Chicago had played a political game with Blagojevich by threatening to run for governor as an independent if Blagojevich did not reform school funding in Illinois. Once Blagojevich was re-elected against token Republican opposition, and with the support of Meeks, the controversial plan to privatize the lucrative Illinois lottery quietly died, and Meeks himself never mentioned it again. Standing with Meeks and Blaogjevich above is then-Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, who announced his enthusiastic support for the privatization plan at the media event stated at Chicago's Healy Elementary School that day. Substance caption and photo by George N. Schmidt. The leadership of the Illinois Democratic Party has provided a lengthy and adulatory bit of biographical material on Meeks which is available from them on their Website. "Reverend Senator James Meeks has been a committed activist in his community for many years," it says. "In 1998, he led the rally to 'dry up' the Roseland community by collecting votes to close 26 area liquor stores. He also established Salem Christian Academy School (SCA) to provide quality education to hundreds of children from preschool through eighth grade. Meeks started 'It Takes a Village,' a mentoring program offering guidance and support for pregnant teenagers and teen mothers, which has served countless young women and children since its inception... As the pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Chicago, Meeks has watched the congregation grow to over 22,000 followers," according to the Democratic Party..."

As of October 20, Meeks's remarks had not been reproduced on the Rainbow PUSH Website. Substance is currently awaiting comment on the matter from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, President of Operation PUSH, who was contacted after Substance confirmed the remarks. By the end of October 20, Rev. Jackson had not returned phone calls from Substance.

Early on Tuesday, October 20, CTU spokesperson Rose Maria Genova said that CTU President Marilyn Stewart had spoken with Meeks, and that further information would be available.

On the evening of October 20, the CTU issued the following press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 20, 2009 )CONTACT: Rosemaria Genova, Press Secretary. Office: 312-329-6250, Cell: 708-712-4629

Statement by CTU President Marilyn Stewart, on comments made by Senator/Rev. James Meeks

CHICAGO – CTU President Marilyn Stewart released the following statement today in response to recent comments made by State Senator/Reverend James Meeks at a meeting at Rainbow Push headquarters.

“The Chicago Teachers Union has long supported Sen. James Meeks’ efforts and the efforts of others, to change the way Illinois pre K-12 public schools are funded. We also supported his fight for fair and equitable educational opportunities for all Illinois students irrespective of where they reside.

“We cannot, however, accept his irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric when it comes to talking about our 32,000 members. As an educator, I believe my job is to educate those who are misinformed. It is clear from the statements made by Reverend Meeks and based on the phone conversation we had, that he was led astray.

“The members of our Union understand the challenges our children face in and outside our public schools which is why our members work tirelessly to assist students and their families. We have advocated for more financial resources to address the social and emotional needs our students face in an effort to curb violence.

“We have also pushed for a moratorium on school closings, consolidations, turnarounds, phase outs and other methods implemented by the Board of Education that create instability and remove highly qualified, 100% certified veteran teachers.

“I have asked for a face-to-face meeting with Sen/Rev. Meeks to address his inexcusable remarks. Further, I will address any misunderstandings he may have about the quality of our union professionals who work every day in our public schools."

Calls to Senator Meeks's Calumet City offices were unanswered early in the day on October 20.

In early afternoon, Substance received a phone message from Sandra Smith, who identified herself as an aide to Senator Meeks.

Ms. Smith said that questions had to be referred to Tasha Harris, who was identified as Senator Meeks's press secretary. Calling the number Substance was given for Tasha Harris, we got an answering machine which said that Tasha Harris was 'Communications Director for Salem Baptist Church.' A message again requesting comment from Senator Meeks went unanswered at the time of the final deadline for this article. Additional information will be reported when it becomes available in a separate article. 

Final edited version of this article posted at www.substancenews.net October 21, 2009, 6:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., www.substancenews.net. Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.



Comments:

October 20, 2009 at 10:28 AM

By: zeta

Meeks attacks Teachers at PUSH!

It's interesting that Meeks a State Senator, is afraid to confront the gang bangers in the neighborhoods where he is the residing Senator. If I am not mistaken, isn't Meeks the Senator for the area where Derion Albert was killed? Correct me if I'm wrong.

However, if Meeks wants to help his community he should face the real problem, the real gangs, who terrorize his constituents. Did the teachers kill or murder anyone in his district? Have they beat anyone to death or shot them? Maybe he is afraid to tell the truth about the P Stone Nation, The Gangster Disciples or the 4 Corner Hustlers. Could it be that he's afraid of reprisal from these gang- bangers if he tells them to stop killing and destroying the very community he is supposed to protect? Or maybe he has a relationship with these gangs and identifies with the. Maybe they are his friends.

Maybe he's afraid of Daley whom he says is a "Great Mayor". It's interesting that the only time he had something bad to say about Daley was off camera.

According to Meeks he said, "Huberman is a "Nice Guy and I don' have a problem with him". Maybe he's afraid to tell the truth about Daley and what he is doing to the African American community.

I find it comical that the scapegoat for all of his problems are teachers. I guess since he's such a coward and bully (very much like the people he's afraid of) he decided to choose teachers as his "whipping boy".

He obviously feels ( as cowards do) that he has found a someone that he's not afraid of.

Hard working teachers who have too much class to get as ignorant with him as he has gotten with them.

Our wonderful, intelligent and bright teachers sat patiently in the audience while he ripped them apart. Some left in tears. A group of displaced teachers who came to the forum for help and to heal the community and share their talents to save our children, were treated to this barrage of insults and lies.

One Teacher shouted out YOU LIE! YOU LIE! and walked out. Meeks started to attack that teacher by saying ,"If you were a good teacher you wouldn't be upset!". The misinformed audience applauded.

I have news for Mr. Meeks, we're going to protect our profession from "wolves in sheep's clothing" (like him).

YES , it is true Meeks, You are a coward and "YOU LIE"!

October 20, 2009 at 10:52 AM

By: Just Curious

Meeks - House of DOPES!

Doesn't Meeks have a large membership that includes South and West side teachers? I wonder if they will continue to worship at this HOUSE FOR DOPES?

October 20, 2009 at 12:18 PM

By: V. Williams

Teacher

It is my understanding that gangs tear down communities, they do nothing to uplift or help the people of a given community. In that reguard, I agree with Mr. Meeks about the teacher's union. They have not helped the teachers in any form or fashion. They have weakened us. They are not fighting against charter schools, turn-arounds schools, and veteran teachers who can not find jobs. In my opinion, they are a problem just like a gang is a problem to the people.

October 20, 2009 at 1:15 PM

By: sick and tired

REMOVE MEEKS!

If you agree with Meeks than you agree that the teachers from the South and West sides are incompetent. Meeks asked the question, Why are all the good teachers on the North side on at magnet schools?

Meeks is playing the race card.

He wants Daley and Huberman to know that he's not going to say anything about the gangs that terrorize his constituents, he won't speak about Daley's REN 2010 gentrification policy . He won't speak our about Huberman insinuating that whites are better than black teachers and that they need to teach AA children because African American teachers can't. He wouldn't dare to insult white teachers on the north side or at the magnet schools.. His problem is with African American teachers and progressive Whites, Hispanics and others that have a passion for "AT Risk Students" on the South and West sides .Also, Meeks will not address parents that have relinquished parental responsibilities.

Please watch the entire PUSH broadcast so that you can see that Meeks want's certain teachers fired and is getting that accomplished as the Chair of the Education Commitee for the State Senate.

REMOVE MEEKS FROM OFFICE!!!!!

October 20, 2009 at 1:36 PM

By: Danielle

Meeks is attacking teachers, not CTU leadership

Meeks isn't making a comment about the current leadership of the CTU, he's talking about our contract that means principals can't fire a teacher on a dime, that teachers, like all workers, deserve due process.

Meeks isn't saying that the union needs to fight Renaissance 2010, he's saying all teachers on the South and West sides are "BAD" teachers because we choose to teach in schools where social problems are more intense than other areas.

Meeks has never been in my school (where 1 in 7 girls is pregnant) or done anything real for my kids. He has no idea what me and my colleagues do for our kids. He is scapegoating and ducking the real issues.

Most importantly, his issue of funding, of the so-called "North side" inequity (really SE, Magnet, and Charter inequity) wouldn't be solved with more money from the state cause most of the money lies are created at 125 S. Clark.

The fact that he can stand from a podium and yell at an audience member (who probably teaches on the south or west side) that they are a "bad teacher" is disgusting.

October 20, 2009 at 1:51 PM

By: sick and tired

REMOVE MEEKS!

If you agree with Meeks than you agree that the teachers from the South and West sides are

incompetent. Meeks asked the question, Why are all the good teachers on the North side on at magnet schools?

Meeks is playing the race card.

He wants Daley and Huberman to know that he's not going to say anything about the gangs that terrorize his constituents, he won't speak about Daley's REN 2010 gentrification policy . He won't speak our about Huberman insinuating that whites are better than black teachers and that they need to teach AA children because African American teachers can't. He wouldn't dare to insult white teachers on the north side or at the magnet schools.. His problem is with African American teachers and progressive Whites, Hispanics and others that have a passion for "AT Risk Students" on the South and West sides .Also, Meeks will not address parents that have relinquished

parental responsibilities.

Please watch the entire PUSH broadcast so that you can see that Meeks want's certain teachers fired and is getting that accomplished as the Chair of the Education Commitee for the State Senate.

REMOVE MEEKS FROM OFFICE!!!!!

October 20, 2009 at 5:01 PM

By: South Side Teacher

South Side Teahcer

Not only does Meeks have a large membership comprised of both west side and south side members, many of them are CPS TEACHERS!!!! Also, aren't the teachers who teach at his school, Salem Christian Academy, (most of whom aren't even certified) teaching at a south side location? This man is beyond ignorant! And I am a BLACK National Board Certified Teacher who teaches on the south side! People, let's remember these stupid remarks during the next senate election!

October 20, 2009 at 5:04 PM

By: South Side Teacher

South Side Teacher

Oops! Please forgive the typo, everyone. South Side "Teahcer," should read "South Side Teacher."

October 20, 2009 at 5:35 PM

By: bob

Follow the money

If the CTU is a gang perhaps the senator would like to refund

The $ 3,500 dollars we gave him in 2008?

October 20, 2009 at 6:20 PM

By: zeta

Meeks - COUDENT GET AN EDUMACATION!

I would like to see if Meeks can win an election on the North Side. Since the South and West Side teachers are no good, they obviously are a refection of the "no good communities' on those sides of town.

My suggestion is that he take his ignorant behind on the North Side and run for office.

By the way I grew up on the North Side and am a proud South Side teacher. However, I have never seen or heard of any politician on the North or South Side that is as ignorant as he is.

P.S. Maybee he just angri cause he coudent get a good EDUMACATION! HA HA

October 20, 2009 at 9:29 PM

By: Jay Rehak

Sad if he said it

If Senator Meeks actually considers teachers more of a problem than gang bangers, he has a profoundly skewed value system. No teacher ever shot a child or terrorized a neigborhood.

As a teacher, I am disappointed that anyone, let alone a State Senator would denigrate the men and women who do their best each day to help children learn.

The larger question that needs to be asked is this: the next time a fight breaks out at Fenger between gang bangers and teachers attempt to quell the disturbance, which side

will Senator Meeks be on?

October 20, 2009 at 11:26 PM

By: Jim Vail

Meeks a peach

This guy's a peach.

And he's on the Board of Directors of Operation Push, so let's not say Jesse Jackson is some neutral character in this total slander of good black teachers who work like heroes in the roughest communities and are incredible role models, many of whom overcame the odds themselves.

I see this as Meeks merely stating out loud what most politicians are thinking these days. The business community has invaded the education realm where teachers unions are Enemy No. 1.

But this could also illustrate how weak our union is where they give money to the very people who not only vote against the teachers' interests, but slander them in the process.

Teachers should demand that CTU President Marilyn Stewart explain why her "friend" hates teachers and the union she leads.

This guy is attacking his own people so that the great Mayor Daley can keep privatizing and destroying he's peoples' livlihood.

Like I said, this guy's a peach.

October 21, 2009 at 12:45 AM

By: kugler

Waiting for PUSH Response

We were at push tonight and asking Rev Jackson (who was not at meeting tonight) to completely retract any connections and support for Rev Meeks — including a full repudiation of his statements against teachers.

We expect it on this Saturday's PUSH telecast.

This is the guy who probably helped gut the Soto Bill and push through more Chicago charters.

John Kugler

Displaced South-side Teacher

October 21, 2009 at 5:18 AM

By: South Side Teacher

South Side Teacher

It's not just black teachers Meeks is slandering. He said "teachers who teach on the south and west side." That includes white, Hispanic and "other" ethnicities also. Don't forget, black teachers aren't the only ones teaching on the south and west sides. The man's a fool--PERIOD!! He definitely "acted stupidly."

October 21, 2009 at 12:47 PM

By: V. Williams

Teacher

People let me clarify my position. First of all, I think that Meeks sucks and should be removed from office. I was simply using irony to get my point across about the CTU. I really do feel that they are not doing anything to help the teachers and I feel that they are weak. In no form or fashion do I think North side teachers are better than South or West side teachers. Nor are White teachers better that Black teachers.

October 22, 2009 at 2:22 PM

By: kugler

Institutional Discrimination

imagine this.

closing all the predominantly African American schools in cps, turning them into private schools, firing hundreds of African American teachers that work in these schools, hiring white young non-certified teachers to replace the veteran African American teachers and then finally closing one of the only predominantly African American and predominately female public teacher training universities(CSU) within Chicago with people like Rev. Meeks supporting these policies by arguing the misinformation and lies of the government.

If this was a story you were reading in a book isolated from the events on the ground you would say:

No Way.

Illegal.

Institutional Discrimination.

Where is the federal government!

Then you would calm down and say oh this is only a story it can not really be happening in 2009.

John Kugler

kuglerjohn@comcast.net

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